New Year’s Eve, Party of Two

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I’ve had my share of extravagant New Year’s Eves.

But this year was the craziest one yet.

There was booze and wild dance moves and fisticuffs and A ROUSING GAME OF SCRABBLE.

OK fine.

Franco and I stayed in because we’re old and that’s what old people do.

And you know what? It was awesome.

All you Olds out there know what I’m talkin’ about. As for you Youths, stay wild. Wear warm undies.

IMG_0877Franco wanted to try out the new cocktail toolset his brother and sister-in-law got us for Christmas. We got the table ready for some serious mixing.

IMG_0886Our go-tos:

IMG_0887IMG_0890IMG_0894IMG_0895IMG_0898IMG_0900IMG_0902IMG_0910Dirrrrrrty martinis!

IMG_0917IMG_0918IMG_0919IMG_0923IMG_0932And Manhattans.
Dental toothpicks included.

IMG_0945For dinner, we made another go-to:

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FANCY PASTA FROM A BOX!

IMG_0960IMG_0967IMG_0970IMG_0976IMG_0979With sauce fresh from the jar straight to our mouths.

IMG_0982Let’s get the party started, shall we?
By the way, why yes that’s an airbed in our living room. We had guests a couple weeks back and kind of just never put it away. Because, AMAZING.

IMG_0987Cracked open the Scrabble set also gifted by Franco’s brother and sister-and-law. It’s like they know us really well or something.

IMG_0995Though we’d played with Scrabble sets as kids, we’d never played a real game before. Shocker, I know.

IMG_1006Modeling our new toy, totally aware of just how fucking cutthroat we, er, I would soon become.

IMG_1013With tunes from the record player I got Franco for Christmas. My dad, by the way, was in awe of this thing. When Franco unwrapped it on Christmas, my dad went from shock (“They still make those?”) to skepticism (“That won’t work!”) to straight up kneeling on the floor to take out the manual from the box before Franco could even get to it. His verdict? “Sounds better than the one I had.”

IMG_1020Round Two.

IMG_1022IMG_1030Don’t let this calm scene fool you. At one point we had to stop the game after I lost my shit when Franco used the tiles I was gunning for. He said something about “You’re too competitive why can’t we just play a fun game of Scrabble wah wah wah.” Rude.

IMG_1034IMG_1046Times Square countdown times.

IMG_1051HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Franco ended up winning 299 to 247.
Then he won 267 to 237.
After we both studied some two-letter words he again won 312 to 280.
Yes, we’re obsessed. And yes, I’m pissed. One day I’ll prevail.

IMG_1053IMG_1058Lauryn Hill sounds great as ever on vinyl. The only lame part is this version doesn’t have the hidden tracks. I mean, that was only like 90% of why we got it but whatever. Still good.

IMG_1061IMG_1062Texting loved ones is soooo hard.

IMG_1066The aftermath.

Pork Chops on Christmas

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Christmas came and went.

We ate deep-fried greasy everything and saw just how far we could sink into our respective couches. We stared or didn’t stare at the TV. At dinner we sat around the table fact-checking each other’s know-it-all claims about something or other, each refusing to give in because we were all equally right.

Then it happened.

It began just as any of my dad’s depressing-to-us-but-normal-to-him-tales typically do—out of context.

Just what we were laughing and chatting about I can’t remember. A mispronounced word perhaps? An errant booger?

Whatever it was, it went a little something like this:

Me: Pork chops, am I right? Man, do I love me some pork chops!

Dad: Speaking of pork chops… it was 1992, and it was time to enroll you three into your first American school.

[My sister, brother and I exchanged knowing looks, “Here he goes again.” Franco, an experienced awkward-moment provocateur, perked up.]

Dad: We’d arrived in the US just months before. Your mom and I decided to take you to a private Catholic school a couple blocks from our apartment. I remember talking to you in the principal’s office in Tagalog, and the lady at the front desk—

Older Sister: She was mean!

Me: What did she look like again?

Older Sister: A mean old lady!

Dad: She snapped at us and said, “We speak English here.”

[This led to my parents telling us to speak English at home so we could get rid of our accents as well as minimize the inevitable discrimination we’d experience elsewhere. This also led to us losing fluency in our native tongue… whoops.]

Me: I remember leaning on her desk as a little 8-year-old, 3-foot-nothing, and she said, “Before I begin, how about no elbows on my desk?” And I was like, bitch please….

zsnap

[Author’s note: That may or may not have happened.]

Dad: All the immigrants they’d previously admitted had trouble catching up and had to take remedial courses. The school even suggested we enroll you in public school instead. Imagine that, public school!

[Lest you think my dad was some kind of elitist snoot, remember that this was early ’90s NYC in Da Boogie Down Bronx. We eventually made friends with people who did go to public school, but they were noticeably less, um, geeky and lame than we were. In short, we totes would have gotten our faces punched.]

Dad: I was like, Nah, homies. I want them to go to school here. The school said, “They should take ESL (English As a Second Language) classes first.” They were held in these trailers parked in front of the school.

I told them you all could speak English! So you took a test to prove it. Then, when you passed, they came to me with another problem: “They’re older than the kids in their grade! They need to be in their proper age group, but I don’t think they’re ready for that.” So I told them, “Well, I suppose they could take summer school if they end up struggling.” The school begrudgingly let you three take an assessment quiz.

Older Sister: I remember it being really simple. They asked us to spell words like “cat” and “dog.”

Me: Meanwhile, in the Philippines, I was already spelling four-syllable words.

[Author’s Note: bowdown.gif]

Dad: Of course this was all reflected in your test scores, but the school came back and said, “We have another problem.”

“What now?” I said.

“Well,” they said, “it seems they’re actually quite advanced for their grade level. Would you  mind if they skipped a grade?”

“Wonderful,” I said. Then I thought, “What about letting them skip two grade levels?”

“Mr. Bolipata,” they said. “Now you’re pushing it.”

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***

Epilogue:

My mom, wanting to show up our doubters, incentivized us by promising to shower us with presents should we get first honors. This method proved way too effective—we asked for TVs, our first desktop computer and dial-up internet, a dedicated phone line, film cameras, video cameras, books. My mom soon dreaded report-card season, while the nerd monsters she’d created grew into even bigger nerd monsters.

Angela Chase Is My Homie

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I’m always in my head.

Whenever something big happens, I imagine Future Me reflecting on that very moment years later in full-on Angela Chase mode, narrating every furrow of the brow, out loud and angst-filled—all while I’m living it.

That’s what happens when you grow up on The Wonder Years. And Blossom. And Clarissa Explains It All. And, the great overthinker’s bible, My So-Called Life.

It also does a couple things to a young person’s underdeveloped brain:

One, you decide talking to yourself, out loud and often, is acceptable.

Two, overanalyzing becomes your default way of thinking.

And three, you kind of miss out on some things.

You preoccupy yourself with trying to figure out what everything means before it even has a chance to become anything.

You even set some ground rules.

Big moments, you decide, come with symbolic tchotchke like streamers and cake to let oblivious you know that THIS IS A BIG DEAL, IDIOT, PAY ATTENTION.

Little moments, meanwhile, have an easier time slipping by unnoticed.

In most cases, it’s fine. I mean, they’re usually boring and lame and why waste brain space on what kind of pants your neighbor was wearing this morning unless he was wearing, like, MC Hammer pants, because, AMAZING.

What complicates things is when big moments disguise themselves as little moments, only to reveal their true selves long after they’ve passed.

I’ve tried to remedy this by always carrying a camera or a notebook and pen. It helps me relive everything, over and over, the good and the bad, with the benefit of hindsight that I use to craft neat narratives in order to make me sound much wiser and well-adjusted than I actually am.

Those otherwise inconsequential MC Hammer pants? Now they’re a symbol of my lost youth and spontaneity and inability to say, “Fuck You, slacks. I’m wearing MC Hammer pants to work today.”

But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a transition rears its ugly head.

Neither big nor small, transitions are merely preludes to either.

Nowhere are transitions more apparent than in New York, where your favorite noodle joints, jobs, and friendships dissipate overnight, sometimes without saying bye. The city conditions us not only to accept it all with a stiff upper lip but also to expect them.

It’s why when the rare transition that you recognize as a transition passes by, in its really fucking beautiful kind of way,

you go outside

and take a picture.

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Hamsters

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I shared a room until I was 18.

It’s a great recipe for insanity—one I plan to gift my own hypothetical offspring.

After all, with all this talk about future generations growing far more entitled, information being far more accessible, and the interwebs rendering state boundaries obsolete (and thus, expanding the pool of people you might meet in real life), there remains the one thing I still can control: physical space.

And in this space, its inhabitants will learn as I did, early and quite often, that what’s mine is not necessarily just mine,

what’s normal for me is probably weird to others,

and, most important,

that I have to share my fucking space whether I like it or not.

Just how these things can be achieved will be quite murky, as the great Space Enforcers (aka Mom and Dad) will be way too busy with their own shit (aka paying the billz) to hold anyone’s hand.

But achieve them everyone must if they want peace in Bedroomdonia.

Plus, for you skeptics, there are valuable life lessons to be had: ones about collaboration, compromise and, perhaps the one most conducive to succeeding in this modern world, subterfuge.

Because hell hath no fury like a sister scorned.

In the embattled landscape of my space-deprived youth, the lone desktop computer was a coveted thing. So was the blowdryer. The lone television.

Bathroom privileges hinged on the desirability of the anticipated activity. Most mornings it spawned the Bowl of Pasta special: fighting to the death to see how long we could stay burrowed in our beds until our dad ran into our room screaming because we were running late for school and, by extension, making him late for work.

Our most epic fights played out in ridiculous bloodbaths via a stab of the fingernail, bitch fits and, for the worst of the worst, The Silent Treatment. Couples on the verge of divorce are notorious for the last thing, but I suspect the ones who do it best shared a room with a sister.

It all taught me the art of tolerating interpersonal differences as a form of survival. Dealing with subsequent roommates became a breeze.

It did something else as well.

Even now in large spaces, I feel swallowed whole.

Just recently I had an entire house to myself while working in a different city. I felt like at any moment, someone could kill me and get away with it.

Perhaps that’s the paradox of it all.

I like my own space. But not too much.

I want to know I can read in a corner, undisturbed, and still have someone within earshot to listen to my favorite passages or, at the very least, rescue me from closet monsters.

Of these corners I’m very territorial.

For a while I’d even accepted I was meant to live my life like a hamster, hoarding all my shavings, marking them with my scent, dissuading intruders from trespassing, and biting a chunk off repeat offenders.

But once in a while, as I learned through years of owning 30 hamsters simultaneously (More on that some other time), a second hamster can be introduced to an occupied habitat and peacefully coexist.

And, if the first hamster permits, colonize somewhere new together.

IMG_0404IMG_0407IMG_0428_whiteoutIMG_0434IMG_0443IMG_0445IMG_0483IMG_0484IMG_0494Note: Pictures taken shortly after moving in. Don’t worry, we’ve cleared the crap since. For the most part.